Every year, we work with a relatively limited budget to help support all of our members’ businesses through effective communications. That means we maximize our efforts to secure earned media through public relations and bought media through advertising. Our campaigns have twice been honored with the Marketer of the Year Award from the Houston chapter of the American Marketing Association for the real estate category. We hope to keep up those efforts in the coming year.
One of our most prominent and visible advertising efforts is our outdoor (billboard) campaign. We have 11 billboards located throughout the greater Houston area. The vinyls for the boards have become quite worn, so we will be redesigning and refreshing the boards early in 2011. We were able to retain our permanent placement locations and our high-quality “rotators” for only about a five percent increase in cost. This follows on no increase in cost last year for the outdoor campaign. We will also have boards in Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as one that focuses on our commercial division.
We also have significant print relationships with the Houston Chronicle, Houston Business Journal and all of the area relocation guides. In the Chronicle, we have weekly ads in the Sunday issue that rotate among different sections so that we have greater exposure. We also have section front “strip” ads that are one of the most commented-on placements we have. We are currently investigating other, cutting edge print methods to make an impact with our target home buyer and seller audience.
We also have a full-page ad in the GuestLife books that are located in thousands of hotel rooms across the greater Houston area. We had maintained a prominent position in Continental magazine, but that publication will cease in February 2011. Due to the much larger distribution, the advertising rates also increased more than we could justify for our more localized purpose.
We will still have exposure to Continental (United) passengers through Continental.com, which has proven to be our most successful online advertising site. Our banner ads appear in a few different locations to make sure that anyone flying to or from Houston will see them at some point during their reservation. Other high-performing sites for us have included some of the Houston Community Newspaper sites, such as the Conroe Courier, West University Examiner, Katy Sun, Fort Bend Sun and Pearland Journal. We will likely continue those online buys in 2011 as well. We are also looking into a couple other new, promising online opportunities.
We have had TV campaigns in years past, with the most recent spots running about two or three years ago. During our recent communications survey of our members, many people expressed a desire for us to return to TV. While we are operating with a smaller, tighter advertising budget, there are still things we can do that do not have an enormous up-front cost that would make it otherwise prohibitive to become involved in TV. We are currently looking at various sponsorship opportunities at each of the stations and will evaluate which ones make the most sense from both financial and demographic angles.
There are always other things that come up during the year that we consider; some make sense and some don’t. Either way, you can know that HAR is here for you promoting the use of a REALTOR® in a property transaction and helping to elevate the image of the profession and the real estate market in the greater Houston area.